When I saw the name, Butterfield, Benjamin Emilius, Saug Centre, Ia., in the catalogue at the beginning of this year, my curiosity was aroused. I wanted very much to see the gentleman from Saug Centre, Ia. My imagination ran riot, and before I saw him I had settled many points in my mind regarding him.
His name was such a curious compound of commercial Americanism, Hebrew blue-blood, and Latin aristocracy, and the name of his native place, Saug Centre, was so picturesque, while, moreover, I had thought so much about that line of words in the catalogue, that I so breathed into them an individuality, a soul, that Benjamin Emilius became one of my daily companions during those last autumn days when the leaves fall and the bursar rejoices in a fresh opportunity to answer numerous and voluminous questions with that laconic brevity so characteristic of that functionary.
Saug Centre was, I was quite sure, a station on the Davenport, Dubuque & Iowa R. R., between the towns of West Saug and North Saug. It had its "prettiest girl in town;" its half a dozen churches, with the attendant meetings of the "Gleaners" every Wednesday afternoon; its church sociables, known among the Gentiles as "tea-fights" and "muffin-scrambles," and all the other necessary opportunities for gossip kindly provided by every such institution with "a vigorous religious life."
Saug Centre had a school, I was sure, and Benjamin Emilius was a graduate. I pictured to myself the graduating exercises, where Benjamin Emilius had delivered a paper on "The Liability of Meteors to Influence Civilization," a subject that would do credit to the choice of a Professor in "Themes" in this vicinity. "Miss Jennie Smith delivered the class prophecy, in which the town peculiarities were handled with discriminating wit and severity" (vid. the report in the next morning's edition of the Saug Centre Phoenix), and the exercises were closed by a performance of the "Hussar's Charge" on six pianos.
Benjamin's father kept a store in Saug Centre - I was fully persuaded of that, and I almost knew what he kept. I could almost see the signs pasted in the window on large sheets of coarse, brown paper, "Our Five-Cent Cigar can't be beat. Try it." "A large supply of Dupee's Sugar-Cured Hams just in." "Try our new Self-Adjusting Mouse Inducer; every housekeeper should have one," etc., etc.
Then there were little boxes in the window with odd labels, such as "Peerless Corn Salve;" "In Excelsis Bug Exterminator; buy it, try it, and be no longer annoyed with cockroaches in your kitchen;" "Patent Labor-Saving Cleaning Powder," with the face of a female with abundant hair reflected in a table-spoon, and the like.
Then I felt sure Mr. Butterfield, senior, had sandy hair and a sandy beard, and was long and thin, what his neighbors called "rather a spare man;" I had also decided that he had large hands and feet, and wore spectacles and storeclothes; that he was bigotedly honest and never touched a drop of anything.
I suppose the psychological explanation of all this is in the name Benjamin Emilius Butterfield. Butterfield had an unmistakable tang of "store" about it which I could not eliminate. "Emilius" bespoke an acquaintance, limited perhaps, with classic literature, and also carried with it, to my mind, a pair of spectacles.
But Benjamin, i. e., son of the right hand, son of good fortune, was a whole tableau in itself; it meant a chapter every night, sermons an hour long, and Sunday school every Sabbath; it meant a long and tearful discussion between Mr. and Mrs. Buttefield, senior, and Mrs. Butterfield's mother, at Benjamin Emilius' birth; it meant a narrow escape from such biblical prefixes as Arphaxad, Peleg, Uz, Mash, Hazarmaveth, and the like.
It discovered to me the character of Mrs. Butterfield. She was of a religious turn of mind, probably the daughter of a Methodist circuit rider, and had made a resolve, in early life, during the Sunday school book period, that her first born son should be a minister, and backed by her mother and after innumerable conferences with her Bible, she had tearfully bullied Mr. Butterfield into naming their first born Benjamin. Knowing, as I did, that Benjamin Emilius had inherited some of the puritanical precocity of his mother, I felt very strongly that he would be surprised, not to say disappointed, when he arrived here, and, after mistaking the janitor of Divinity Hall for a divinity student, became acquainted with the gentlemen living opposite the Peabody Museum. I presumed that both he and his father had read the constitution of the school, viz.: "That every encouragement be given to the serious, impartial, and unbiassed investigation of Christian truths, and that no assent to the peculiarities of any denomination of Christians shall be required, either of the instructors or students," and that Benjamin Emilius would be surprised at the breadth and liberality of interpretation which this permitted, its catholicity limiting the school to three classes, the Mystics, the Agnostics and the Dyspeptics. I wondered, too, if Mrs. Butterfield had persuaded Mr. Butterfield to send "our dear Benjamin" to Harvard on the ground that an undergraduate, under the list of expenses marked "least," could live on $484, but that a divinity student could live on $238, not knowing that this calculation was made years ago, when the study of physiological physchology was in its infancy and the spirituality of divinity students was at its maximum point. I wondered, too, if, in searching the catalogue for economical arguments, she had found the following: "The cost of board to the members of this association is expected not to exceed $4.00 a week," referring, once upon a time, to Memorial Hall; but I hoped that Mr. Butterfield saw through the specious wording of that item, and acted accordingly.